Music by Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein w/ NYTimes music critic Anthony Tommasini
Contemporary Jewish Museum, 5736 Mission St between 3rd and 4th Sts, SF 94103 (Map)
Tickets: $20 (includes museum admission) Online or 415.655.7800
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Virgil Thomson, Gertrude Stein’s closest music collaborator, composed two operas to her libretti and “musical portraits” of subjects while they sat silently before him. In conjunction with the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s exhibition Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories (May 12–Sept 6), BARS presents Anthony Tommasini, chief classical music critic for The New York Times and Thomson scholar, performing of a selection of Thomason's "musical portraits."
In addition to his performance, Tommasini will speak on how Thomson’s relatively simple music reflects and resonates with Stein's hermetic writing. BARS musicians will also perform some of Thomson’s musical portraits and other works for chamber orchestra, including selections from Socrate by Erik Satie, one of Thomson’s major influences. Performance also features a reading of Stein’s literary portraits and soloist Brian Thorsett, tenor, under the baton of Daniel Canosa.
Part of the BARS LGBTQ Composer & Performing Artist series. Steingraeber & Sohne piano provided by R.KASSMAN, Berkeley
Anthony Tommasini will perform musical portraits by Virgil Thomson on piano. The program also includes other musical portraits, including those of Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Thomson’s partner, Maurice Grosser who provided the scenarios to the Stein/Thomson operas, and a self portrait played by BARS. The program will also include an excerpt of Satie’s Socrate, as well as the Thomson’s aria Pigeons on a Grass Alas from the opera Four Saints in Three Acts and the overture to his opera The Mother of Us All.
About Anthony Tommasini, piano
Anthony Tommasini, DMA wrote his dissertation on Thomson’s portraits, which was published in 1986 as Virgil Thomson’s Musical Portraits. As a pianist, he has recorded two CDs of music by Thomson: Portraits and Self-Portraits and Mostly About Love: Songs and Vocal Works. Dr. Tommasini is the author of the seminal biography Virgil Thomson: Composer on the Aisle, published in 1997. He became the chief classical music critic at the New York Times in 2000. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Yale.
About Brian Thorsett, tenor
Tenor Brian Thorsett has been seen and heard in over 70 diverse operatic roles, ranging from Monteverdi to Britten, back to Rameau and ahead again to works composed especially for his talents. During the 2011-12 season, he returns to the roles Jupiter and Apollo in Semele, Acis in Acis & Galatea and Aeneas, Sailor and Spirit in Dido and Aeneas. As a concert singer Brian fosters a stylistically diversified repertoire of over 100 works, which has taken him to concert halls across the US and Europe. Future engagements include works of Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Britten, Bernard Herman, and Berlioz among many others. He is a graduate of San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program, Glimmerglass Opera’s Young American Artist program, the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme at Aldeburgh, England and spent two summers at the Music Academy of the West.
About Virgil Thomsom, composer
Virgil Thomson (1896-1989) composed two operas to libretti by Stein, Four Saints in Three Acts and The Mother of Us All, which are among the most frequently produced American operas. He wrote many other pieces to texts by Stein and composed over 140 musical portraits, which were usually written in one session. He was also a prolific music critic. The simplicity of composer Erik Satie’s style was a major influence. He studied at Harvard University and with Nadia Boulanger in Paris.
About the Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories exhibition
Drawing upon a wealth of rarely seen artistic and archival materials, Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories illuminates Stein's life and pivotal role in art during the 20th century. Focusing on Stein's life from the end of World War I through World War II, the exhibition explores her evolving public personae, lifestyle, relationships, landmark 1934-35 tour of the United States, and life in France during WWII.
Through a portrayal of Stein's contributions in her writings, patronage, and lifestyle, the exhibition provides an intimate look at Stein's complex relationship to her identity, culture, and history. Seeing Gertrude Stein also explores the ways in which Stein's life and writings have impressed themselves upon the American artistic imagination and inspired generations of writers, artists, musicians, and performers. The exhibit also features her lifelong partner, Alice B. Toklas. An additional focus is her collaborations with various artists including the composer Virgil Thomson.
Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories will be on view at the Contemporary Jewish Museum May 12 through September 6, 2011concurrently as the exhibition The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA).
Click Here to learn more about Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories
About the Contemporary Jewish Museum
Since its founding in 1984, the Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) has engaged audiences of all ages and backgrounds through dynamic exhibitions and programs that explore contemporary perspectives on Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas. The Museum has distinguished itself as a welcoming place where visitors can connect with one another through dialogue and shared experiences with the arts. The Museum's Daniel Libeskind-designed facility, completed in 2008, enables and inspires its mission. The CJM is located in SOMA across from Yerba Buena Gardens, one block from the MUNI/Bart Powell Station.
Click Here to learn more about the Contemporary Jewish Museum